Why Cybersecurity Needs to Be a Priority in Saas Product Design

Failing to incorporate cybersecurity into the early stages of product design can lead to future data vulnerabilities and breaches. Here’s how to correct that. 

Written by Metin Kortak
Published on Apr. 22, 2024
Why Cybersecurity Needs to Be a Priority in Saas Product Design
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Closing the stable door after the horse has escaped may be a centuries-old adage, but it’s still relevant when it comes to cybersecurity in product design. Implementing data protection and other security measures after the product design has been completed has continued to be one of the biggest issues facing the SaaS industry.

Incidents like last year’s Samsung data breach expose the vulnerabilities in systems that fail to introduce adequate security protocols during product development, leading to financial and reputational damage. That’s why prioritizing security during product design is critical for addressing this issue at the source.  

5 Tips to Build a More Secure Product

  1. Include robust access control policies.
  2. Incorporate comprehensive data management practices.
  3. Adhere to compliance and regulatory requirements.
  4. Conduct AI-specific risk assessments.
  5. Cultivate transparency and public awareness around security measures.

SaaS programs, therefore, provide a conduit to billions of people and thousands of companies across the globe. This fact makes SaaS a tempting target for bad actors wanting to exploit confidential information for their own ends. 

 

5 Important Product Design Security Steps 

For most product developers, security comes after building the product. This notion is dangerous and can cause consequences later down the line. Implementing security controls after finalizing product development can appear as an easy fix solution to developing a product faster. 

The reality is, certain security controls will be eventually required by your customers, internal needs, or laws and regulations. Here are some of the top factors software designers should consider when developing a new SaaS product to better prepare for future security needs. This approach not only safeguards against potential threats but also reinforces trust and reliability in the growing field of technology.

 

1. Robust Access Control Policies 

Introducing effective access control protocols help secure company systems by regulating access to data and functionalities. Product design should factor in editable password policies that allow organizations to tailor processes to meet their objectives and compliance regulations. 

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) significantly reduces the risk of unauthorized access. Single sign-on (SAML) capabilities and auto log-off features contribute to robust access control, and suspicious alerts from applications when users sign in from a new device or a different location all strengthen security. Viewing access logs is also beneficial for detecting unauthorized activity in user accounts. 

 

2. Comprehensive Data Management Practices 

Sound data management practices are vital for SaaS applications that process vast amounts of personal and sensitive data. Product designs should incorporate privacy measures such as data encryption, regular audits and compliance with global data protection regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). 

SaaS administrators must be able to access corporate data, set data retention parameters and delete data when necessary. Compliance frameworks like HIPAA, for instance, have specific deletion and retention requirements. System designs must provide for continuous data backups, and data management protocols must allow for redundancies in case of outages or disasters. 

Data privacy protection options could also include the ability for users to opt out of having their data used for machine learning.

 

3. Adherence to Compliance and Regulatory Standards 

Regulatory compliance is a necessity, not an option. The first step is a detailed understanding of the regulations and frameworks that apply to a particular industry. This is followed by building compliance into the product design. Identifying issues after the fact and adjusting a product to accommodate them is awkward, time-consuming, and risky. 

Adherence to basic cybersecurity frameworks such as SOC 2 or ISO/IEC 27001:20233 strengthens comprehensive data privacy practices by providing a framework to manage and protect data effectively throughout the system’s life cycle. Companies like Philips have leveraged ISO standards to ensure healthcare products meet stringent regulatory requirements. This approach enhances patient safety and secures sensitive health information while fulfilling legal obligations and bolstering the product’s credibility and market acceptance. 

 

4. AI-Specific Risk Assessments

If you are building a product with artificial intelligence technologies and language learning models (LLMs), AI-specific risk assessments help identify and address vulnerabilities unique to artificial intelligence technologies. The assessments consider factors such as data integrity, algorithmic bias and the potential for unintended machine-learning outcomes. The new ISO/IEC 42001:2023 guidelines provide a structured framework for conducting these evaluations, ensuring that all potential AI-specific threats are systematically identified and mitigated. 

The framework, which resembles the ISO 27001 standard, emphasizes the importance of continuous risk assessment throughout the lifecycle of AI products, from development to deployment and maintenance. AI systems can evolve and learn from data over time, potentially introducing new risks that were not present at initial deployment. Organizations wanting to comply with ISO/IEC 42001:2023 can combine the process with the ISO 27001 framework since many requirements overlap. 

 

5. Public Awareness and Transparency 

Cultivating transparency about the security measures implemented in SaaS programs is crucial for building public trust and confidence. Open communication reassures users and stakeholders about the product’s reliability and safety, how systems operate, the data they use, and the safeguards in place to protect their data.

Strategies to engage the public and build trust include detailed disclosure of privacy policies, regular updates on security practices and public demonstrations of the product’s safety features. Educating users about how their data is handled and the benefits of AI can demystify the technology and reduce apprehensions about its use. 

More on CybersecurityHow Data Compliance Can Help Your Startup Close More Deals

 

Stay Proactive About Product Security 

With cyber threats becoming more sophisticated every month, companies must stay up to date with security threats and proactively integrate updated security measures into their product design processes. The ongoing development of standards reflects the growing recognition of SaaS complexities and the need for robust governance frameworks. These standards deliver a benchmark for companies to measure their security protocols against industry best practices. 

To remain competitive, SaaS providers must embrace these standards and other tools available to prioritize security at every stage of their product development. 

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